One of the best weekends in Toronto’s cultural landscape is always the Global Cabaret Festival down at the Young Centre every October. It’s one of the city’s most diverse showcases for musical talent across many different genres. Many of the artists at the Global Cabaret participate in multiple shows over the course of the weekend and every single one of our Best Cabaret Performance nominees this year came from that one weekend. One of its brightest stars is always fiery fiddler Miranda Mulholland.
In 2013, Miranda stood out in many of the festival’s most interesting shows, possibly highlighted by but definitely not limited to music director Mike Ross’s thrilling take on the Bob Dylan Songbook. Her haunting voice, rousingly percussive feet, and fast-flying bow combine to make any show featuring Miranda (and there are always quite a few) a festival favourite.
At what age did you pick up the violin? How many hours did you practice while growing up?
I started playing violin at age 4. My older brother played, so naturally I wanted to as well. I was very competitive. I used to practice several hours a day before school. I think that’s why I’m still a morning person.
When did you discover fiddling?
I heard Natalie MacMaster play when I was 14 or so. From then on, I was hooked.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
I am a big fan of Alison Krauss. Also Nickel Creek. I wrote Patricia O’Callaghan a fan letter back in 2000. We’re great friends now but she’s still a hero of mine.
You also studied opera in university. What led you there?
It was a natural step. I was always singing. I decided to take a break from the violin and pursue singing full time. i love opera so much and learning good technique is never a bad idea.
How do you find your classical background influences your current musical style?
I find classical training gives me the ability to express musical thoughts more easily. With facility in my fingers, I’m able to do the things my brain thinks up.
Over the last few years, your performances in numerous cabarets have become a highlight of the Global Cabaret Festival. When does everything start to come together for the annual October festival?
Oh! Thank you! Honestly things usually come together at soundcheck. We all do a lot of separate preparing but I think for most of us, the spur-of-the-moment vibe is the best thing about the festival. It makes things exciting, fresh and inspiring.
What’s your limit of shows for the weekend? Do you ever have to turn the music directors down because you’re in too many things?
Usually I take on too much – but that’s kind of fun too. My limit usually comes when the excellent scheduler at the Cab Fest says two shows are at the same time so then I have to choose.
What’s been the most fun cabaret to be a part of?
I had a great time in Spoon River two years ago. I was acting a bit so it was more challenging than usual. I love working with Mike Ross and also Patricia O’Callaghan – we did a Neil Young Album a few years ago. I also got to do my own show a few years ago and I did a musical version of “The Wild Party”. I got to hire Michael Kaeshammer as my pianist! Talk about talented!
You will often add a string part in unexpected places to create something entirely new. How do you approach the interpretation element of performances like that?
That’s a real feel thing. I try to serve the song when I add things – either enhance the words or create an opposing mood that will make the words have a deeper impact. The biggest challenge is staying out of the way of the vocalist and making sure they feel comfortable.
If you were to music direct a show for the songbook series, whose songbook would you choose?
I’d love to do the whole Alison Krauss/Robert Plant record ‘Raising Sand’. How great would that be?!
You also appear onstage playing the violin in Soulpepper’s recurring production of Parfumerie. What’s it like returning to the piece every few years?
It’s actually really interesting. Since we did the show for the first time 5 years ago, everyone in the cast has gone through some pretty big changes – I think the show has deepened because of that. It’s sort of amazing to be able to check in with something familiar and then see the differences in it.
What’s your latest project/What are you working on now?
I just started a record label – Roaring Girl Records and I’m releasing my first solo record this spring. I’m pretty excited about it!
Do you have anything you’d like to add?
I’m thrilled to be among such great company in your nominations! I love all of those artists and am always happy to play with them when I get the chance.
Thank you so much!